Up the Ladders and Down the Snakes

My siblings and I loved Snakes and Ladders. Zooming up and down the board was fun. You would land on the ladder and advance, only to find the snake, groan, and slide back down. It’s a simple game with parallels to life and learning.

I thought about this game at a recent training session for Adaptive Schools with the amazing John Clarke (yes, my mind goes odd places).

Photo Credit: espressoed via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: espressoed via Compfight cc

Clarke mentioned the Ladder of Inference, a concept first proposed by Chris Argyris. I was introduced to the ladder of inference during Instructional Rounds training.  In chapter four, the authors talk about “Learning to See and Unlearning to Judge.” It is a powerful way to think about how we see people. Do we watch and listen carefully without judging? Or do we go up, up, up the ladder of inference to draw conclusions  about people or situations before we listen carefully or seek to understand.

In my last post, I challenged myself to have the courage to do the effortful work of changing how I think about others and being open to everything they are and have to offer without rushing to judgment.

So, even though I loved playing Snakes and Ladders as a kid, I don’t think I want to play it as a leader.  I’d rather advance carefully on the game board, seeing, listening and learning.

Do you have any favourite childhood games that have parallels to your practice?


One response to “Up the Ladders and Down the Snakes”

  1. Sue, I really like your comparison here. I couldn’t help but think of my new one word goal, “listening,” and how being a better, active listener, may stop me from shooting up that ladder of inference quite so quickly. I hope it does!

    Now as for your game question, I wonder about Jenga. Each piece we pull out is kind of like changes we make. If we make slow, careful changes, the look of our “structure” may change, but all remains stable and good. If we’re too quick or too extreme with our changes (e.g., pulling quickly out from the bottom) everything comes tumbling down. Change is good, but maybe there’s the most value in small, thoughtful changes … carefully growing on each other. Now you’re making me wonder if there are other game/life comparisons.


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